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Various Translation Techniques

I would like to start this blog by telling you a story of what actually happened once in our office. A prospect had called our office and wanted to get further information regarding our costs per word and and asked one of our new Account Managers if we had “one of those translation machines”. She answered, even though she didn´t know the response, that “yes, we have one of those”. After she ended the phone conversation with the prospect she asked her colleague, whether we had a translation machine and she was told that we did. She went over to the fax machine to check out, thinking it was the translation machine, and acted very impressed that you could just insert a document in one language and it would come out translated. Later she was told that it was a joke, and she thought it was funny herself.

You might be thinking why I am telling you this story, but translating texts into other is not that easy, and there are certainly no machines that can do that for you, as explained above. Here are the different translation techniques used by professional translators and the Translation Industry:

: This is when words are taken from one language and used in another without translation. A good example would be the word “trottoir” from (used in ) or “Frankfurter” from German (used in English).

Calque: This is when a phrase is borrowed from another language and literally translated word-for-word.

: This is a word-for-word translation, however this works only in some languages and in other languages it doesn´t work.

Transposition: This is when parts of speech change their sequence when translated.

Modulation: This is when a phrase is used that is different in the source and target text, but represents the same idea.

Equivalence: This is when the text has to be expressed in a completely different way, meaning it is the exact opposite of literal translation. This takes place with slogans or advertising material.

: This is when a definition in the source text does not exist in the target language, due to cultural differences.

Compensation: This is when something cannot be translated, and therefore the meaning that is lost,  is then expressed somewhere else in the target or translated text. A good example would be “tu” and “vous” in French, but in English there is only “you”.

It is very important to remember that translation does not only involve the translation of one word to another, or two languages, but that it also involves 2 and very often certain adaptations need to take place in order for the translation to make sense.